March 28, 2006

It was all going so well ...

Erin and her sister came to town this weekend and we decided to take them to a few places for tapas and appetizer rather than sitting down for one regular-sized dinner (we got this idea partly because of The Girl Who Ate Everything's adventures). After some debate we settled on two Lower East Side places: Mo Pitkin's House of Satisfaction and the Caracas Arepa Bar.

Mo Pitkin's, run by the Two Boots people,
had good lighting, nice overstuffed booths, interesting judeo-latino menu. Interesting crowd, ranging from NYU undergrads to old people. Menu had a lot of soul-food options.

The four of us had a pitcher of white sangria and shared:

  • chorizo meatballs - delicate
  • pulled beef brisket - beefy
  • crab-stuffed deviled eggs - tasty but maybe not entirely worth it (you'll see why later)
  • roasted cauliflower salad - bland
  • spicy asparagus and pine nuts - flacid, cold, and confusing
  • manchego cheese - awesome (but when isn't it?)

potato latkes with apple sauce and sour cream - the star of the show

The first six apps came in a seder plate with some matzo in the middle and only had two or three bits of each. Just enough for a taste, which is exactly what we'd had in mind (though we could have used some more latkes).

We then headed a few blocks up to Caracas
, a 20-seat Venezuelan place. The wait was about 40 minutes. Since the weather was mild and we were still digesting our appetizers and sangria, we were fine with that. Then we grabbed takeout menus and tried to figure out what we wanted, but were too distracted by the crazy east villagers who kept walking by ("man, I need to smoke something. anything").

We got the best table. You know the one in the window where everyone standing outside glares at you so you position yourself in such a way that you know that they see you enjoying your meal. That one. Great music, good-enough lighting. The chatter wasn't overwhelming. The chefs were visible in the open kitchen and everything, except the arepa, was cooked to order. Again, we didn't mind the wait.

I got the special, a lamb and carmelized onion arepa with special sauce, and an order of Yoyos. These yoyos might have been the best part of the night for me; the menu describes them as deep fried balls of sweet plantain stuffed with white cheese and even though the vaguely sketchy 'white cheese' wasn't elaborated on, I absolutely loved them. They came with a molasses dipping sauce and had a euphoric balance of sweet/salty/chewy/crunchy. Oh, and I got a mango/soursop juice too. Also completely worth it.

The arepa bread, before I forget, is made of corn flour and is served looking similar to a pita. It's crunchy and hearty but not so crunchy that it explodes when you bite it (like taco shells). Each plastic-covered table has a mysterious bottle full of green liquid speckled with black dots. The waitress explains that it's a mildly spicy pepper sauce. It's worth a try; compliments the arepas well.

The others got a Reina Pepiada (chunky chicken with avocado-mix salad; excellente), the Los Muchachos (grilled chorizo, spicy white cheese with jalapenos and sauteed peppers; didn't get to try it but Katie enjoyed it), and the De Pabellon (shreeded beef, black beans, white salty cheese and sweet plantains). Meg and Erin also got some special drinks: a Chicha (rice and cinnamon; it tasted like watery, smooth rice pudding on the rocks. Doesn't sound appetizing but tasted novel) and a Cocada (a coconut milk shake with a touch of cinnamon: not quite milkshake texture but I found it delicious even though I don't love coconut. It was smooth and refreshing).

So now that it was getting on 11 o'clock, we decided to finish up the night by hitting up our favorite Italian pastry place: Veniero's. Their crustless cheesecake makes me happy on a spiritual level. My total number of Veniero's visits is beginning to rival my number of Pasty's patronizings and though I love their cheesecake I am starting to fight the maybe-i-won't-like-it-and-will-have-wasted-my-Veniero's-trip fear by trying new things. Chocolate covered canoli, I love you. Sicilian cheesecake, you're alright. With its interesting flavor profile (canoli with cherries for the cheesy part and tirramisu for the cakey part), the sicilian cheesecake kept my attention for a few trips, but it's lost iallureure. I got the aforementionchocolateate canoli, meg a slice of italian (ricotta) cheesecake, and Katie and Erin both got fruit-topped mini-cheesecakes. After purchasing, meg lamented about how she should have gotten something different and pointed to a weird-looking confection on the top of the display. Some of the guys behind the counter tried to sell her on it, the Nepoli (or Zepoli, I couldn't understand them), by explaining that it was a seasonal pastry and that those were the last of them for the year. Meg didn't go for it, but I did. So completely worth it. (Cream-puffy with canoli-ish filling and dried cherries)

The line was out the door, so we got our delectables to go and sallied forth to the L. The night went downhill from here. If you want a happy food story, stop reading, go to the shake shack and forget that you didn't read to the bottom.

On the L, Meg says that she doesn't feel good. I ask her to elaborate but she just says gross. By the time we get to our train, she says she seriously doesn't feel good. By the time we were on the express (yes, an express on a weekend. Horrifying and unexpected), she was getting cold sweats, was nauseous, and was getting ready to pass out. We made it to our stop, she collapsed on the ground and said she wanted to go to the hospital. Erin and Katie stayed with her while I went to tell the station attendant (because like all new yorkers, we, while trying to avert our eyes from our fellow subwaygoers, read all of the public service adds that advise you to tell a station attendant if there's an emergency because it will get help there faster).

40 minutes later, firemen, EMTs and police arrived. It's a good thing she wasn't bleeding. The firemen were kind of assholes, the police left pretty quickly, and the EMT was good. I'll omit the 40 minute wait where Meg was laying on the floor shaking and I was practically yelling at the station attendant to get them there faster while a crowd slowly formed around us.

I could have carried her to St. Luke's faster than waiting for help (though it would have been a bad idea).

The hospital went well enough; they filled her full of fluids and sent us on our way. For the four hours I was there with her, I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. We had shared pretty much everything we ate that night, down to the devilled egg with crab, so I just sat there waiting for what was coming to me.

This was her fourth bout with food poisoning in the last year, but we're beginning to think it might have something to do with a food allergy. When she got to the hospital, her arms were all red and I thought they looked a bit swollen. I think she's planning on heading to an allergist. She felt mostly better the next day, thankfully.

In other news, I found the NY City Dept. of Health website that posts a lot of restaurant health violations. Bleh. The Restaurant Inspection Information page. Average number of violations for a NYC restaurant? 13.

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Anharchy said...

i love veniero's. have you hit up billy's bakery yet?

Robyn said...

I'm glad to see I've influenced people to eat a crapload!...wait...yeah, okay. :D That's an impressive night of fooding you had there. I'm likely to go to multiple dessert places in one night, not "real food" so much. Gotta check out Mo Pitkin's at some point...

I don't know why I'm somewhat adverse to Italian pastries. I must be too used to fluffy slabs of butter cake slathered in frosting and other delicious things that will kill me. (sigh)

Sorry to hear about Meg's food poisoning. That's scary.

Anonymous said...

Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated.

P.S. I disagree with your assesment of the asparagus. I found it strangely alluring.